Olivia O’Brien may have titled her tour “It Was a Sad Fucking Tour,” but the show she brought to The Regency Ballroom in San Francisco was anything but gloomy. We were lucky enough to be in the room as O’Brien stole the show.
At barely 20 years old, O’Brien has already garnered considerable success. Her breakthrough 2016 collaboration with Gnash “i hate u, i love u” propelled her to social media fame and secured her a loyal and passionate fanbase. That fanbase was out in full force in San Francisco, just the second stop on O’Brien’s 2020 tour.
Well before Olivia O’Brien took the stage, the buzzing crowd had already packed the ballroom floor. Like O’Brien, her fans are young. The predominantly Gen Z audience (with some of their parental chaperones in tow) brought an almost manic excitement as they waited for their idol to take the stage. As the lights dimmed and O’Brien’s pre-show “Hollaback Girl” played, the room literally vibrated from the sound of the crowd singing as one-something that did not change as the show continued.
Watching Olivia O’Brien perform is like seeing some kind of alternative Barbie come to life. Her long purple hair, model-like build, and genuine onstage joy make for a perfectly mesmerizing show. Stepping onstage in front of large circular screen, O’Brien stood backlit against a scene of a purple sky as she began the opening notes of “Sad Songs in the Summer.” Once standing in the full light of the stage, O’Brien spent the song twirling and smiling as she sang.
In fact, one of the most charming qualities of O’Brien’s performance was her infectious smiles. Even as she sang some of her less-than-cheery tracks like “Fuck Feelings,” “Empty,” and “I Don’t Exist,” her joy at hearing her words sung back from the audience would break through in wide grins.
“It Was a Sad Fucking Tour” deserves particular props for its visual design. The large screen and zig-zag stage lights served as an impressive visual complement to O’Brien’s shimmering, powerful voice. From psychedelic hearts to emojis to 90s-era computer graphics, the design perfectly captured O’Brien’s aesthetic.
Olivia O’Brien is only twenty years old, which is one reason why seeing her perform is so exciting. There is an undeniable sense that you are witnessing greatness in the making. Her persona is more than just her voice or her stage presence or her connection with her audience; it is an indescribable magnetism that pop stars are made of. There is clearly much more in store for Olivia O’Brien, and we can’t wait to see it.